Identifying single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) interactions is considered as a popular and crucial way for explaining the missing heritability of complex diseases in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Many approaches have been proposed to detect SNP interactions. However, existing approaches generally suffer from the high computational complexity resulting from the explosion of candidate high-order interactions. In this paper, we propose a two-stage approach (called ClusterMI) to detect high-order genome-wide SNP interactions based on significant pairwise SNP combinations. In the screening stage, to alleviate the huge computational burden, ClusterMI firstly applies a clustering algorithm combined with mutual information to divide SNPs into different clusters. Then, ClusterMI utilizes conditional mutual information to screen significant pairwise SNP combinations in each cluster. In this way, there is a higher probability of identifying significant two-locus combinations in each group, and the computational load for the follow-up search can be greatly reduced. In the search stage, two different search strategies (exhaustive search and improved ant colony optimization search) are provided to detect high-order SNP interactions based on the cardinality of significant two-locus combinations. Extensive simulation experiments show that ClusterMI has better performance than other related and competitive approaches. Experiments on two real case-control datasets from Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) also demonstrate that ClusterMI is more capable of identifying high-order SNP interactions from genome-wide data.
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